You’ve rocked it and landed an interview for your dream job. Now is NOT the time to be complacent. Now is the time to make sure that every next step you take is well thought through. That includes how to dress for success at your interview. You don’t want to look like, or be remembered as, a clown.

It doesn’t matter what role you’re going for, always, always, always be well-groomed. Clean and tidy hair, clothing and shoes are the only way forward. As recruiters, we hear from employers who are turned off by how some candidates look and smell. They can create this impression before the person being interviewed even opens their mouth.

So what is the best interview attire?

The golden rule is to dress in a way that’s appropriate to both the position you’re applying for and the industry you’ll be working in. If you’re in doubt, talk to your recruiter and/or research the company’s website and online presence to uncover their workplace culture and see how staff present themselves. Then follow suit.

What about attire for a professional position?

Men should wear a suit or a well-coordinated suit jacket and slacks, with a conservative tie. Women should wear a suit (with skirt or pants) or a plain dress (not a glam, out-there look).

What about attire for non-professional or blue-collar positions?

If you’re applying for a position in a more casual industry, there’s no reason to assume, if you’re male, that you can get away with a basic t-short, shorts, runners or sandals. If you’re female, you shouldn’t assume you can get away with a sleeveless summer dress with a deep v-neck or open-toed shoes. Business causal is appropriate but not too casual. You can feel relaxed but still need to leave a great impression that you’ve taken the time to look presentable.

Do colours matter?

Unless you’re applying for a hot job in a highly niche industry, like fashion or the arts, it’s best to avoid flashy colours and patterns. You generally want the interviewer to focus on you, not what you’re wearing. Many would agree that black is a wardrobe staple colour, but that doesn’t mean you have to wear black. Dark blue (think Barack Obama) can convey a sense of confidence and trust. Grey can convey a sense of respect and intelligence. Red can convey a sense of power (think Julie Bishop’s now famous red shoes).

Why should I give up my personal style and personality by wearing something I don’t like?

You don’t necessarily need to give up who you are when dressing for an interview. Most people have a range of garments in their wardrobe. If you’re a female and a strong creative, then choose to reflect your personality with a coloured blouse, brooch or scarf, as opposed to a way-out-there garment. Men can wear a coloured shirt.

Hot tips

  1. Show respect and that you really want the job by being well-groomed.
  2. Clean, ironed (not crumpled) clothes will say a lot about you and your overall sense of being.
  3. Shoes should be in good condition and not worn out or scuffed.
  4. Stay away from strong-smelling foods, such as garlic, and alcohol the night before your interview, and don’t smoke before your interview. Strong smells, like garlic, can be off-putting. With alcohol, you don’t want an interviewer to think you’re a heavy drinker and that this could affect your ability to perform at work. Have fresh breath—brush your teeth before your interview.
  5. It’s safest not to wear any perfume or cologne. If you do, make sure it’s not overpowering. Remember, some people have an allergic reaction to strong smells. This is the last thing you want to trigger when you’re in an interview, especially since most interviews take place in small rooms and so smells are amplified.
  6. If in doubt about how to dress, over dressing is likely safer than under dressing.
  7. Leave oversized hand bags and briefcases behind. A simple folder with a notepad and a pen will do. The more you carry, the more awkward you will look when picking everything up to introduce yourself to someone and shake their hand.
  8. Women should keep jewellery to a minimum and wear lower-heeled shoes. Long dangley earrings and killer stilettos might look great on a hot date or fabulous night out, but they detract from what you’re saying in an interview.
  9. Apply all these rules if called back for a second interview. This is, after all, your second opportunity to dress for success.

Learn more

How to interview like a professional

Top tips for when a recruiter calls

22 most frequently asked interview questions

How to write a winning resume

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